CHINA's target of achieving an unprecedented US$20bil trade volume with Malaysia next year may even be realised this year, according to Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Hu Zhengyue.
He said that based on China's estimates, the bilateral trade figure from January to August this year was already US$12.2bil.
This was a 42% increase in trade over the same period last year, he added. Total bilateral trade in 2002 was US$14.2bil.
There are still four months of trade to account for. Despite the problems caused by the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak earlier this year, we should manage about US$18bil (RM68.4bil) for 2003.
But it is possible that the US$20bil target could be achieved this year. From what I've experienced here, the pace is going to get even more hectic in the coming year, he added in an interview.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had, during his talks with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Beijing last month, stated that total trade between both countries could reach US$20bil in 2004.
Abdullah, who led a large business delegation in his five-day working visit to China, concurred with his Chinese counterpart.
Trade volume between China and Malaysia had never breached the US$10bil mark before 2002 the closest was US$9.4bil (RM35.72bil) managed in 2001.
The increase in trade last year, compared to 2001, was a staggering 51.4%.
Hu, who was posted here on September 2001, had made it his avowed objective to break the US$10bil barrier.
The envoy from the world's most populous nation can certainly take credit for having worked doubly hard to turn his dream into a reality.
I am proud of what we've achieved so far, but the pace can be much faster. For China and Malaysia, the sky is the limit, declared the 50-year-old Hu, who described his role in achieving the trade target as a small part.
Malaysia is now China's largest trading partner within Asean. The trade surplus last year was in Malaysia's favour, at US$4.321bil.
As it stands, China is Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner, while we rank seventh on China's list.
Hu said Malaysia accounted for 25% of China's trading with the whole of Asean, adding that this showed how significant his country's bilateral trade with Malaysia was.
China's trade figure with Asean was expected to amass US$100bil by 2005, he added.
So if Malaysia retains its percentage of trade with us at 25%, China-Malaysia trade will grow to US$25bil by 2005.
In my opinion, that figure (US$25bil) will be attainable by that period, he added.
Hu said Shanghai, China's financial centre and most populous city (16 million people) where the country's largest concentration of manufacturing facilities (including shipbuilding, iron and steel, chemicals and textiles) were based, was playing a big role in trade with Malaysia.
Last year, Malaysia's exports to Shanghai totalled US$986mil, an increase of 44.3% from the previous year's US$683mil.
Shanghai exports here last year worked out to US$1.6bil, an increase of 103% from the US$523mil the previous year.
Shanghai is booming and has developed into one of Asia's great seaports. Many Malaysian businessmen go to Shanghai to look for opportunities.
But other Chinese cities are also playing a major role in trade with Malaysia, he noted.
The envoy, who described Abdullah's visit as a big boost to political and economic ties between China and Malaysia, said the development of Malaysian ports was also paving the way for increased bilateral trade.
Hu reiterated that China-Malaysia relations were at its best state ever, adding that the Malaysia-China Friendship Year designated next year to mark the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic ties would boost bilateral cooperation.
Our leaders see each other quite often and we have a common position on many issues. The constant dialogue between our countries augurs well for our continued prosperity, he added.
The ambassador said the new areas of bilateral cooperation would be in the field of agriculture, space technology, human resources and biotechnology.
China, with its technological edge, and Malaysia, with its resources, can join forces to succeed in these fields.
Both China and Malaysia want to develop a biotechnological edge and together we can offer a huge market to the world, he added.
He said the first labour recruitment agreement signed between China and Malaysia in Beijing during Abdullah's visit would pave the way for the entry of skilled Chinese workers here.
With the agreement, Malaysian ceramic and furniture companies will be allowed to hire skilled and semi-skilled artisans.
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